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What does it mean to “toll” a statute of limitations period?

| Nov 17, 2020 | Wrongful death

If you lost a loved one in a car, truck or motorcycle accident that another person’s negligence caused, you may wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuits, like all civil actions, come with time limits for when you must file your claim. 

The law refers to these time limits as the “statute of limitations.” If the statute of limitations, you generally lose your right to sue. However, some jurisdictions may extend the statute of limitations after it ran out via a process called “tolling.” 

Tolling the statute of limitations

If you failed to file a wrongful death lawsuit before the statute of limitations ran out, all hope is not lost. According to FindLaw, the state may “toll” the statute of limitations if certain circumstances exist. To “toll” the statute of limitations merely means to suspend or delay it. Tolling is most common when plaintiffs evoke the “discovery rule,” which basically states that the statute of limitations does not start running until the date the decedent discovered or should have discovered the cause of his or her injury or illness before his or her death. 

Other situations may warrant tolling as well. For instance, the statute of limitations does not apply in cases in which the plaintiff is a minor child. If a minor lost his or her mother due to the wrongful actions of another person or entity, he or she cannot file a cause of action until the age of 18. Thus, the statute of limitations does not start ticking until the child’s 18th birthday. 

Other options for delaying filing

In very few cases, the courts may waive the statute of limitations for the plaintiff. However, the plaintiff’s circumstances must meet very strict criteria. In even rare instances, the opposing party will waive the statute of limitations upon the plaintiff’s request.